Amorphis never disappoints. This could be the title of their autobiography. Thirty years in the scene and they still can delivery such powerful albums like “Halo”. Quite a big deal if you ask me. Guitarist Tomi Koivusaari, one of the founding members of the band and original vocalist, was happy to answer our questions regarding their latest release and future plans. Interview: George Terzakis
Rockpages.gr: Hello Tomi and congratulations for the amazing new album “Halo”. Four years have passed since “Queen Of Time” came out and this is the longest period between two full-lengths. Did the pandemic had to do something with it? It’s not a big delay, but still…
Tomi Koivusaari: Hello George, thanks! Yeah, it is actually the longest time between two albums we ever had before, but I guess the reason for that is that we had quite massive tours after “Queen Of Time” and after that we were supposed to tour for our 30th anniversary shows, which were cancelled by Covid. So, in that case we were recording the new album in original schedule as planned.
Rockpages.gr: “Halo” seems that is heavier and at the same time more melodic that its recent predecessors. Tomi Joutsen’s growls are amazing and the aggressive moments flirt with melodic death metal. The same goes with the…calmer moments, as the melodies are really memorable. What is your opinion on that? Was it by design or it just happened during the songwriting process?
Tomi Koivusaari: We did not plan anything, so everything happened naturally. Well, we did have something like thirty-five songs demoed from which Jens Bogren chose thirteen songs we actually recorded. So, with different choices it could of course sound different. But I agree, I feel it is kinda heavier. The riffing and also the guitars are more in-your-face in the mix so that might also be one reason. And at the same time, there are lots of melodies going on.
Rockpages.gr: Is the direction of “Halo” has something to do with the cover? A very bright side and a very dark side, just like your music?
Tomi Koivusaari: Yes, actually that was one of the themes when we were thinking for the cover. We wanted opposite elements to it, like light/darkness, warm/cold, good/bad, sun/moon etc. As you said, like lot of elements in our music as well that are very important for us.
Rockpages.gr: After so many years and fourteen studio albums, you manage to sound fresh. You keep your trademark sound but always find something new, something different to surprise us. As musicians, do you seek not to repeat yourselves or you choose to go with whatever feels right for you at that time?
Tomi Koivusaari: Thank you, I think it is most because of natural developing, like we have certain basic elements but always trying to approach things from a different angle. Not necessarily consciously but still enjoining making music and have different musical influences and inspirations. So practically, it is mostly whatever it feels at the time.
Rockpages.gr: Also, as you mentioned before, this album it more straight-forward and without using traditional or classical instruments. Did you want to keep it somehow simpler?
Tomi Koivusaari: I think those has been more like our producer Jens Bogren‘s choices. There are still some orchestral instruments but overall it is more stripped down. I think that is a good direction for this album, having it more straight-forward, but there are special moments when needed.
Rockpages.gr: Still, you had guests from countries like Italy, United States, Sweden and Israel. What can you tell us about their contribution? Did they come in the studio with you or did they do their parts from their countries?
Tomi Koivusaari: Same as above, Jens is almost always handling guests. Mostly they are doing their parts from their own home studios or so, especially now with the Covid situation all over. Nowadays it is so easy to transfer files to wherever you want.
Rockpages.gr: Speaking of studio, this is your third album in a row that you cooperate with Jens Bogren and as you said so far, he handles a lot more stuff than just being a sound engineer. Do you believe that you found a permanent “seventh member” now? How long did it take to record “Halo”?
Tomi Koivusaari: We started composing the songs maybe half or one year before going to studio. From the first studio day, it took like one year until the album was finally out. Of course, it was finished like half a year before that. Normally we are doing it maybe a little faster because we travel to Sweden to do all the recordings in the row, but this time because of Covid we mainly recorded it in Finland. So, we had looser schedule, which was refreshing. Jens feels like seventh member and kinda outsider ear to us. We haven’t still talked about the next album, we will see if we will do it with the same method. I can’t see any reason why not, except if we want to do something totally different. We will see.
Rockpages.gr: And a classic question for the situation that we face now. How did the pandemic affect your plans as a band? I know that a tour was scheduled for your thirty years and instead you did a live streaming. How was that experience for you? Did you ever think that this could be the new reality?
Tomi Koivusaari: We actually had to cancel or postpone about 200 gigs during the pandemic time. So, it affected us a lot of course. In the other hand, we got some time to breath and relax after so many years of constant touring. But of course, that was financially challenging. But now we feel more like ready to get our asses back on the tours and live shows. Streams were a fun thing to try out, but it will never replace the real live shows for sure. You need that interaction between the band and the audience.
Rockpages.gr: How about that aforementioned tour? Will it happen this year to celebrate your career so far or you will promote the new record?
Tomi Koivusaari: We are now concentrating to promote and tour with the new album. The anniversary kind of went already. Maybe we’ll try next time with the 40th anniversary then! Or if there will be some spare time in future, we might have some special gigs. You never know.
Rockpages.gr: What about a gig in Greece? I believe it’s been a long time since you came for a visit and it’s strange because you have a lot of fans here.
Tomi Koivusaari: We would love to come to Greece! I don’t have any idea why we haven’t play there for so long time, I have to ask the promoters. But we were actually talked about that some time ago and wondering why is it like that. So it’s not our decision. Hopefully, it will happen soon!
Rockpages.gr: Let’s go now a trip down to memory lane, since you are one of the founding members of the band. Amorphis comes from a Greek word. Who found that word and what did the name symbolized for the band at that time?
Tomi Koivusaari: It was Esa Holopainen who found the name, he looked it up from a dictionary or something. He probably remembered it wrong, I don’t know. Word’s meaning was what we were looking, but later on it became clear that it is not English, as we thought. In that case it would be Amorphous. Then we heard that it is actually Greek. But no harm done, I guess it fits to us very well.
Rockpages.gr: The year was 1990. What were your first thoughts and expectations when you started the band since Abhorrence and Violent Solution had already broken up? Did you ever think that you could go so far?
Tomi Koivusaari: No, I could never imagine that this will last as long as it has, nor that it will become our lifetime job. Everything in this scene was so underground back then that we didn’t even dream about to get record deals or anything like that. At the same time, making music was the only thing that interested us, but we were so young so we didn’t think anything too much. Just did what we enjoyed and we still are.
Rockpages.gr: In such a long career until now, there should be many ups and down. Can you tell us what was the best and worst moment in your experience so far?
Tomi Koivusaari: Hm, that is a tough one. Maybe the worst times were somewhere around early 2000s, when all our deals with record labels were sucking bad and at the same time we had problems with some old members’ motivation and so on. Best was right after that, when we cleaned the table and sort of started from fresh, with new singer Tomi Joutsen as well. There is lot of goods and bags happened in thirty years, but more positive things anyway.
Rockpages.gr: Tomi, that was all from me. Thank you for your time. I wish you all the best for Amorphis and “Halo” and hope to catch you on stage sometime soon. The last words are yours.
Tomi Koivusaari: Thank you for this interview. I hope to see you somewhere soon and huge greeting to our loyal fans there. We’ve been missing you.